With a gentle gust of a melody to lead the way, an instrumental might greets us as we begin to sink into the rebellious country album that is Jimmy Goings’ Late Check-In’s “American Dreams.” Aching with emotion but efficiently constructed as to conceptually carry us forth into “Crazy Like Me” seamlessly, “American Dreams” gives us an idea of the chilling harmonies that are about to come at us in the other thirteen songs without overstating the main theme of Late Check-In, which I found to be self-awareness. “Don’t Believe in Anything” continues the analytical tone with deep poetic license, and while “He’s in Your Mind” is a bit more intricately designed than the three tracks previously noted here, it doesn’t negatively affect the fluidity of the music at all – the opposite, truth be told.
“Is It Just Me” throws a mild groove into the mix but ultimately turns the spotlight over to the likes of material ala “Live Line,” which despite coming in at under what I would imagine in playing time has as much feeling as any of the longer tracks on this record do. “Now is the Time,” which could be chosen as a single/music video to promote Late Check-In, has the most polished finish of any song here, but though it’s aesthetically glossy in comparison to, say, the fantasy that is “Records from Mars,” it too feels like a DIY country anthem in the spirit of the classic singer/songwriter tradition.
The studious portions of this LP tend to be the more cerebral of its two major movements, with “Ride Away” and “Soldier of Fortune” flirting with glowing harmonies that are even more expressive than their lyrics are. “The Last Tear” brings a shot of stability back into Late Check-In, and while it doesn’t have the sonic presence that the powerhouse “We Were One” has in spades, I wouldn’t have structured the two any differently than they were here. Everything feels deliberately conceived in this latest album from Jimmy Goings – from the design of the tracklist to the minor elements within the mix of any given song, there’s not a doubt in my mind that a lot of thought went into making every stitch of audio effective in some way, shape or form.
My very favorite composition from Late Check-In comes in the form of a dedicated “World at War,” a gripping track reminiscent of a cross between a hesitant Nashville and the late, great Seattle folk scene at its most lucid, and when coupled with an epic piece like “You Make Us Want to Cry,” it makes for quite the conclusion to an unforgettable slew of songs. Jimmy Goings isn’t a major figure on the international country spectrum right now, let alone a household name, but in releasing this splendid album, he makes an airtight case for why he belongs on the radar of every alternative singer/songwriter connoisseur this year. Late Check-In is a masterpiece of urbane musicianship, and it deserves every bit of the buzz it’s getting right now.